Open Payments Funding and Another Kickback Case in the News

An Open Payments letter from two senators, a list of diabetes drugs from Nevada, near silence from the Office of Prescription Drug and Promotion (OPDP), and an unsealed kickback case…all in this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner! There’s nothing like a day of food, family, friends, and parades (and of course, football!) to kick off the holiday season. Can’t you just smell the turkey and fixings permeating the hallways and your olfactory senses now? Before we go unpack our “Thanksgiving pants,” we’ll leave you with a different type of tasty morsel: a new edition of the Compliance News in Review. Bon appetit!

Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chuck Grassley don’t want to see CMS’s Center for Program Integrity (CPI) left at the kids’ table. They sent a letter to the acting Health and Human Services Secretary urging that funding for the CPI be made a priority. The CPI is responsible for managing the Open Payments database. The letter includes references to “recent reports that have raised concerns about the effect payments to health professionals may have on opioid prescribing practices, which in many ways has exacerbated this ongoing public health epidemic.”

Nevada’s Department of Health and Human Services published its list of three dozen diabetes drugs that are subject to the State’s new transparency law. Manufacturers with a drug on the list will have to report a variety of financial information, including costs associated with production the drug; rebates and coups offered; and profits earned from the drug. Regulations for reporting the information are still pending.

Will the OPDP pass on dessert at Thanksgiving Dinner? OPDP is on pace to issue a record low number of letters this year. So far, only two letters have been issued. In 2016, the agency issued five in the first six months, then in December, it issued six more. The letter count has steadily declined over the last sixteen years. Will 2017 will be a record low?

On the social media front, Twitter upped its character limit to 280, and according to social media manager, Andrew Grojean, pharmaceutical marketers should take advantage of the expanded word count. Grojean says the change does not solve all the issues related to use of the platform, but it provides more freedom and flexibility, as well as more space for the required fair balance.

Did Eli Lilly over stuff the turkey? A recently unsealed whistle blower case alleges that the company provided kickbacks to boost sales of its drugs. According to the suit, the company offered nursing services to HCPs through a third-party to induce doctors to prescribe three of its drugs. Allegedly, the nurses essentially acted as sales reps even though they were supposed to be providing independent medical advice and disease state education.

With that, we end this holiday edition of the Compliance News in Review. In the spirit of the season, we are thankful to all who take the time to read our tome on a regular basis, and as always, we invite you to contact our editor, Sean Murphy, with your feedback. He can be reached at smurphy@nxlevelsolutions.com.

Have a fun and festive Thanksgiving holiday!

The Los Angeles City Attorney opens an investigation against one pharmaceutical company, while the founder of another is indicted on federal racketeering charges.

This year’s World Series brought record-setting excitement and late nights (more like wee hours of the morning for those of us in the East) for fans of America’s game. Congratulations to the Houston Astros, who outlasted the Los Angeles Dodgers, in a seven-game extravaganza, just as Sports Illustrated predicted…three years in advance!

If you’re searching for a new pastime to fill the void left by passing of another season, we have just the ticket. Step into the batter’s box as we present all the life sciences compliance news fit to blog, with this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

Leading off this week, a Wisconsin state legislator introduced a bill that will require drug manufacturers to notify the state in advance if they plans to increase the price of a drug by more than 25%. The lawmaker cited the costs to Medicaid budgets and a lack of transparency with consumers as the justification for the bill.

There’s no “Dodging” the Los Angeles City Attorney for Avanir Pharmaceuticals. On the heels of a CNN report, the City Attorney announced that he intends to open an investigation into the company’s prescribing practices for elderly patients in nursing homes. The report pointed to a rise in prescriptions for the drug in question, even though the studies supporting use with elderly patients are lacking. Top prescribers allegedly received speaking and consulting payments from the company.

Canada is pulling facilitation payments from the mound. The Canadian government announced it will repeal the exception for facilitation payments from its Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. The repeal was effective October 31. The law had previously permitted payment to expedite routine services, such as obtaining permits and scheduling inspections.

In news from overseas, the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA), the group responsible for overseeing adherence to the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry’s Code of Practice (APBI), saw a rise of more than 40% in the number of complaints it received in 2016 about marketing and promotional practices. The complaints led to 100 new cases, with more than half of those resulting in the determination that the Code was breached.

Insys is on the losing end of a doubleheader, with the founder being indicted on federal charges and a New Jersey doctor potentially losing his license for allegedly accepting kickbacks from the company. The founder was indicted on charges of racketeering, conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute, and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. The company has been accused of promoting its opioid product for off-label uses and paying kickbacks to healthcare professionals.

The attorney for the New Jersey doctor says his client has never been the subject of a disciplinary hearing, or had a patient complaint in 25 years of practice, and he welcomes the chance to present his case to the medical board.

Speaking of New Jersey, a public hearing was held to receive feedback on the state’s pending regulation, “Limitations on Obligations Associated with Acceptance of Compensation from Pharmaceutical Manufacturers by Prescribers.” The regulation, which was announced by Governor Christie in late summer, includes restrictions related to transfers of value to prescribers of prescription drugs.  Many of the groups in attendance have expressed concern that the regulation’s $10,000 per year cap on bona fide services payments would have unintended consequences on clinical research. The New Jersey Attorney General stated that while some revision is possible, the State is committed to moving forward with the regulation. Public comments will be accepted through December 1.

With that, we end this “boys of summer (and well into fall)” edition of the Compliance News in Review. One final note: if you’re attending the 18th Annual Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Compliance Congress in Washington DC, November 6-8, stop by Booth 112 (back by all the good food!) to see demos of our newest compliance training solutions and the Compliance 365 Continuous Learning System.

See you in Washington!

Compliance News in Review, November 18, 2016

Bring on the turkey, cranberries and uncomfortable family interactions! Thanksgiving is almost here. Soon enough, the stress of all that preparation will melt away as we share meals with friends and family, and depending on how you look at it, a day of crazed shopping the day after will either offer a little more relief or send the stress level right back to record levels. Before your planning kicks into full gear, we offer this small helping of all the compliance news fit to blog, in this edition of the Compliance News in Review. Get it while it’s hot!

The FDA and industry representatives gathered around the table for a two-day public hearing regarding off-label marketing. The agency’s long held opinion remains the same – sharing information about a use that has not been proven safe and effective presents a risk to public health. Industry representatives argued that in a changing healthcare environment, where prescribing decisions are not made exclusively by physicians, the FDA needs to end regulatory barriers and issue clear regulations permitting the sharing of truthful, non-misleading information. The FDA also expressed concerns about the effect that sharing off-label information would have on the industry’s incentive to conduct well-controlled, randomized studies, and that physicians may not have the time to discern what information is misleading.

Former Valeant executives and employees of the specialty pharmacy, Philidor, are being charged with engaging in a kickback scheme to the tune of millions of dollars. According to the FBI, a Valeant executive received $10 million from Philidor. The payments were allegedly laundered through a series of shell companies to avoid detection. In response, Valeant noted that the company itself had not been charged, and documents related to the case made it clear the two former executives attempted to defraud the company.

Teva is setting aside a substantial amount of “leftovers” in the form of $520 million to settle bribery allegations from the DOJ and SEC. The allegations are related to activities in Russia, Mexico and the Ukraine. The company said the allegations did not involve its U.S. business, and implied the issues stemmed from third-parties subsidiaries. Teva also announced that its governance program and processes have since been revamped and it has severed ties with the problematic third-party agents.

Pass the lawsuit, please. A Pennsylvania judge has denied GSK’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by 41 insurers over medications manufactured at a now closed GSK facility in Puerto Rico. The medications were allegedly defective, and the insurers claim GSK induced them to purchase the drugs, and then failed to react when the defective drugs were discovered.

Pharmaceutical sales representatives will now need an invitation from the city to work in Chicago. City Council has passed an ordinance requiring all representatives to obtain a license as part of an effort to help stave off improper opioid prescribing. Reps will have to undergo training on ethics, marketing regulations, and other laws. The fee will be $750, and the license must be renewed annually. The ordinance will go into effect in July 2017. Revenue will be used to educate physicians and patients about opioids.

With that, we close this edition of the Compliance News in Review. Thanks for reading and we wish you and your family a happy and healthy Thanksgiving holiday!

Compliance News in Review, July 5, 2016

Another organization calls for a ban on Direct to Consumer advertising, two former industry sales reps are arrested for kickbacks, a former executive is acquitted on kickback charges, and CMS releases update TOV data.

Strike up the band and light up the fireworks! The American Experiment marked its 240th year this weekend. So, it’s fitting that the hottest ticket on Broadway these days is the story of one our nation’s founders. Since most of us won’t be lucky enough (or rich enough) to score tickets to Hamilton in celebration , we had to stick with the old standbys of parades, barbecues, fireworks. To cap the holiday weekend, we offer a new tradition to add to the list, the Independence Day edition of the Compliance News in Review.

The fireworks continue regarding DTC advertising. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists is the latest group to express a desire to see DTC advertising of prescription drugs banned. In the past, the organization has been supportive of the advertising, as long as it meets certain criteria. Since it now believes the industry is ignoring the criteria, the group has withdrawn its support. A spokesperson says a complete ban is not possible, but he hopes this action will lead to a discussion between industry and healthcare providers about DTC ads. The current model of DTC advertising is outdated according to the spokesperson, and pharmacists and providers are spending too much time explaining to patients why drugs they see in ads are not appropriate for them.

A pair of former Insys sales representatives could be losing their independence in the near future. The two were arrested for allegedly paying over $250,000 in kickbacks to doctors who wrote prescriptions for the painkiller fentanyl. The complaint alleges that most of the money was paid for serving as speakers at programs that were essentially social functions. Very little, if any, educational information was shared, according to the complaint, and following the programs, the sales reps would often take the doctors out for drinks and other entertainment. In a statement, the company says the sales reps were no longer employed and company policy prohibits the giving of cash or other items of value as inducements for writing prescriptions.

It was no tea party in Boston for the feds in a case against a former Warner-Chilcott executive. W. Carl Reichel was acquitted of charges that he paid kickbacks to doctors. Prosecutors charged that the former executive created a strategy of paying kickbacks to doctors in the form of sham speaking fees, money, and free meals in exchange for writing prescriptions of Warner-Chilcott drugs. US Attorney Carmen Ortiz said the charges against Mr. Reichel were warranted, and while cases against executives are difficult to prove, they’re necessary to deter improper conduct.

CMS sent out its annual declaration about Open Payments data. The payment and transfer of value data has been published, and is now publicly accessible. This year’s data represents nearly 12 million records covering $7.52 billion paid to physicians and teaching hospitals. As usual, research payments account for the largest share of the total amount.

This edition of the News in Review reminds us that the consequences of non-compliant behavior can be quite personal. When the big headlines tend to be about the multi-million and multi-billion dollar settlements paid to settle charges of fraud and non-compliance, convincing individuals that there is also a price to pay can be challenging. Citing cases like these in your training is one way to inform commercial staff and executives of those consequences.

While we don’t advocate turning compliance training into something akin to “Scared Straight,” sharing the full landscape of government enforcement actions is important. This is especially true following last year’s memo from Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates about the DOJ’s emphasis on holding individuals accountable in cases of corporate wrongdoing.

That’s it for this edition of the Compliance News in Review. Stay compliant!

Buy or Build: Is Off-the-Shelf or Custom Online Compliance Training Right for You?

During a recent compliance conference panel session, a chief compliance officer from a mid-size pharmaceutical company proclaimed, “I only use custom for online training,” and “off-the-shelf just doesn’t meet my content needs.” She went on to explain that with custom-developed training, she could target specific topics and include company-specific policies in a way that she never could with off-the-shelf.

Fair point, but she failed to take into consideration that while custom-developed training can indeed be built to focus on the compliance content she needs to cover, well-built, flexible off-the-shelf training provides a solid foundation of knowledge, which can then be supplemented with targeted, custom micro-learning in the future, as gaps and custom needs demand.

Start with Off-the-Shelf

Small to mid-size pharmaceutical and medical device companies need effective training covering core topics such as off-label promotion, transparency, gifts and meals, and adverse events, but the training resources and budgets available to many compliance departments, which often consist of a staff of one or two, are quite limited. Instructionally sound, industry-focused, off-the-shelf training can easily and quickly provide core compliance training, without draining your limited resources and time.

For obvious reasons, off-the-shelf, even when tailored to include your specific policies and contact information, can be deployed more quickly than a fully custom training course. Review times are shortened and less demanding, and when a need for training on a specific topic (e.g., speaker presentations) is identified, off-the-shelf gives you the flexibility to deploy rapidly while the topic is still top of mind to your learners. Moreover, with quality off-the-shelf training, content is developed by someone with specific knowledge of the industry, and expertise in commercial compliance. Therefore, your time isn’t consumed with being the primary subject matter expert.

A Time and Place for Custom

This is a need for custom online learning in an effective compliance training curriculum – one that addresses all of your organizational risks and truly helps to build a positive compliance culture. The most recent research points to the importance of spacing learning over time and providing review and reinforcement exercises after the initial training is launched to improve retention. As educational psychologist Steven Just, Ed.D., founder and former CEO of the assessment company, Pedagogue, writes, “To learn, you must cognitively act upon the learning materials, and to retain what you have learned, you must actively re-engage with the learning repeatedly over a period of time.” Starting with off-the-shelf, then mixing in smaller, more cost effective, custom mini modules and interactivities (video scenarios, games, assessments) over time and across a well thought out compliance training plan, has been proven to support on-going behavior change – a key objective in the world of commercial compliance.

Summary

While custom online compliance training should certainly play a role in the on-going execution of your compliance training plan, launching a foundation of targeted, off-the-shelf courses to address important topics to a broad audience represents a rational and cost-effective starting point for any life sciences company’s compliance training curriculum.

Don’t forget to “follow” the PharmaCertify™ blog by clicking the blue link on the right so you don’t miss our updates. Coming soon, The Right Stuff: What Compliance Topics to Cover in Your Product Launch Training.

Thanks for reading and stay compliant!

Sean Murphy, Product and Marketing Manager PharmaCertify by NXLevel Solutions

Compliance News in Review, Ides of March Edition

BMS makes changes to its promotional spend policy in China, a physician is sentenced to prison for accepting kickbacks, and the FDA agrees to allow Amarin to promote its fish oil drug for off-label purposes.

“Beware the Ides of March,” and with good reason. Not only was Julius Caesar assassinated during the Ides, but Czar Nicholas II abdicated his throne, the Nazi’s occupied Czechoslovakia, and the issuance of global health alert concerning the SARS virus all occurred on that infamous date. While plenty of good things probably happened as well, we’re stocking up on horseshoes and four leaf clovers here at the News in Review headquarters, just in case. As we wait for the clock to tick down on March 15th, let’s look at the fortunes of those who made news in the world of compliance, with this edition of the News in Review (fingers crossed it isn’t all bad).

Advice from a soothsayer isn’t necessary for BMS to make changes to its promotional spending policy in China. The company will no longer pay speaker fees to doctors, and will be cutting is spending on entertainment and donations to medical associations due to red flags identified in its Chinese operations. This is second wave of changes for BMS in China, following the company’s settlement with the SEC over violations of the FCPA.

Misfortune has certainly followed one Chicago doctor into March. Dr. Michael Reinstein was sentenced to nine months in prison for accepting kickbacks when issuing prescriptions for clozapine. The doctor admitted to accepting close to $600,000 in kickbacks for prescribing the drug. The defense requested probation, but the judge rejected the request, saying Dr. Reinstein’s patients were among the most vulnerable in society and he violated the trust of those patients when he accepted the kickbacks.

The news isn’t all bad in the Ides, though. The FDA has agreed to allow Amarin to promote its fish oil drug for off-label purposes. Amarin filed suit against the FDA claiming the agency was violating its free speech rights by trying to restrict the company from sharing truthful off-label information in its promotion of the drug. The FDA agreed to be bound by the decision issued in US District Court, which allowed the truthful off-label promotion of the drug. The agency says “the settlement is specific to this particular case and situation, and does not signify a position on the First Amendment and commercial speech.”

As witnessed by the FDA’s statement on the Amarin settlement, a definitive stance regarding the use of off-label information when promoting a product seems to still be a moving target. While companies and legal-types debate how this decision, and other free-speech cases, should be interpreted and applied, we see it as another opportunity to highlight all the legal requirements around product promotion. Providing fair-balance, making accurate, truthful and not-misleading statements are just as important when promoting a prescription drug or device. As an example, notice of violation letters sent by OPDP in recent years typically site inaccurate and misleading statements as the reason for the notice.

With that, we put a green ribbon on this “pre” Saint Patrick’s Day edition of the Compliance News in Review. Here’s hoping the Ides treat you well. Have a great week everyone and stay compliant!

Week in Review, April 27, 2015

Teva settles a pay-for-delay case, the FDA migrates toward electronic submission of promotional materials, a circuit court rejects off-label claims against Medtronic, and several states introduce legislation requiring drug makers to release the costs associated with expensive drugs.

Lordy, lordy, King Arthur is Forty! Monty Python’s version of King Arthur that is. The comedy classic, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, is celebrating its 40th anniversary. If you’re not familiar with the film, forget what you think you know about King Arthur’s quest for the Holy Grail. This version certainly reveals a side to Arthur, his Knights and life in medieval Britain that has never been explored. Whilst we consider the merits of this classic comedic cinematic achievement, we’ll leave you with an epic tale of our own. To horse fine people…it is time for the Compliance News in Review.

Now this is a lot of coconuts. Teva has agreed to pay $512 million to settle a pay-for-delay case involving its Cephalon subsidiary. Drug wholesalers and retailers accused the company of paying generic drug makers to delay marketing a generic version of Provigil. The settlement is the largest in a pay-for-delay case.

The FDA has released new guidance that will make it easier for drug companies to submit promotional materials to the Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP). Currently, companies are required to submit promotional pieces through a paper-based process, using form FDA-2253. The new guidance offers instructions for submitting promotional materials using the FDA’s electronic common technical document (eCTD). The use of eCTD was mandated in the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act. According to the guidance, in two years, all promotional materials must be submitted electronically.

They don’t have a shrubbery, but they would still like safe harbor. The National Infusion Care Association (NICA) has issued a paper arguing that OIG’s position stating that co-payment coupons and other financial assistance runs afoul of the Anti-kickback Statute (AKS) should not apply to specialty biologics for which there is no generic available. The OIG issued a report saying the coupons could be problematic under the AKS if they entice a patient to purchase a drug that is paid for by the government. NICA says while well intentioned, the position is really only valid if there is a generic alternative available for a specific drug. The organization claims that for many specialty biologics, no such alternative exists, and they worry that patients on government programs could be left with few treatment options if they are not able to accept co-payment coupons offered by manufacturers. NICA would like to see CMS, HHS, OIG and others in the government create a safe harbor allowing those on government programs to participate in co-payment programs if there is no generic alternative.

It may not have had the same drama as the process for determining if someone is a witch, but a circuit court has rejected claims against Medtronic over its off-label promotion of a medical device. The company was sued by an Oklahoma woman who said her physician implanted the product, Infuse, in a manner that was different than the FDA-approved approach. The woman said her doctor was urged to by a Medtronic representative to use the particular approach, and that the company had violated state tort laws. The court said her claims either did not have sufficient proof or were pre-empted by federal law.

Several states will soon be asking drug companies to bring out their drug costs. Massachusetts, North Carolina and Pennsylvania are the latest states to introduce legislation requiring manufacturers to disclose the costs and pricing information associated with expensive drugs. The Massachusetts’s bill will impose a limit on what a company can charge if the state determines the price of a drug is “significantly high.” If that bill is passed, the state will develop a list of drugs for which reporting is required. Companies will have to report costs related to production, research and development, and marketing. North Carolina’s law will require disclosure reports on all drugs sold in the state, and like Massachusetts, the production, research and marketing costs will have to be reported. Pennsylvania’s law will require disclosure reports for drugs with an average wholesale price of $5,000.00 or more, annually or per treatment. The Pennsylvania bill allows insurance companies and state programs to not cover a drug if the manufacturer has not filed a transparency report with the state.

With that, our tale for this week has nearly ended dear readers. We leave you with the reminder that many knights prefer accessing up-to-date compliance training whilst jousting about on horseback rather than hoping for a strong wireless connection over a mug of mead at the local tavern. The PharmaCertify™ suite of compliance-focused training solutions offers that training where your knights need it most – beyond the round table and at their fingertips.

Farewell for now dear friends.